As all dog people know, sharing an outdoor experience with a pup is the cherry on top of any outing. Dogs have a way of both reflecting and magnifying our joy: the more fun they’re having, the more fun we’re having. But to achieve that human-canine bliss, you have to set her up for success. Whenever you raise your dog’s activity level, make sure you’re feeding her enough—and feeding her the right—ingredients.
To help you start off the summer on the right foot (or paw), we first compiled our favorite dog-friendly outdoor activities and then spoke to Dr. Darcia Kostiuk. Dr. Kostiuk has been a veterinarian for more than two decades, and is currently the senior veterinarian for ORIJEN® Pet Food. While we broke down her advice to correlate with the different activities, it’s worth noting that you’ll want to put all these nutrition tips to use to achieve a balanced diet. Besides, any dog, regardless of the activities he does, can benefit from eating better. Put simply, a healthy dog is a happy dog. And happy dogs have more fun.
Hiking and Backpacking
Hiking with a dog is a perfectly symbiotic arrangement: you’ll be able to share new sights and smells, and she’ll be able to share her boundless enthusiasm—and make it look a little bit less like you’re talking to yourself on the trail.
Before you take your pup on a hike, double-check the park or land manager’s website to make sure dogs are allowed. Talk with your veterinarian before any extended backpacking trip. If dogs are permitted off-leash, make sure yours is trained to come when called and won’t chase bikes or wildlife. And, as always, remember to pick up after your pup.
Piling on the Protein
Long-distance hikers tend to stick to three main food groups: candy, ramen, and instant mashed potatoes. But unlike the average dirtbag, your pup needs a little more substance to stay fueled over long days on the trail. That’s because dogs are facultative carnivores. In other words, they function best when a higher percentage of their nutrients comes from proteins and fats.
“If a dog is very active, the need for specific nutrients like protein increases,” says Dr. Kostiuk. “If dogs are unable to extract enough protein through their diet, their bodies may break down their own protein [from muscle] to be able to support their normal body functions.” To keep that from happening, Dr. Kostiuk says, it’s essential to include high-quality proteins, and these can come from nutritious animal products like red meat, fish or poultry. Before you buy dog food, check that the top five ingredients are animal products like these.
For those who love running, there’s nothing better than sharing that love with a dog. For those who don’t … well, there’s no more motivating running partner than an enthusiastic pup. Health bonus: switching from sidewalks to trails reduces impact stress on your dog’s joints (and yours).
Before you start running with your dog, make sure she’s leash-trained, and consider getting a hands-free leash. Most experts also recommend waiting until your pup is done growing. That’s usually at age one to one and a half, but dogs vary, so ask your vet to make sure.
As facultative carnivores, dogs draw on protein for fuel more than humans do. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need carbs, says Dr. Kostiuk. That’s certainly true for prolonged high-output activities like running.
Look for dog foods with complex carbohydrates and different types of fiber. ORIJEN® Amazing Grains recipe, for example, includes oats, quinoa, millet, and chia, all of which function as prebiotics for gut health—both promoting satiety and supporting a diverse gut microbiome.
Watersports are some of the best ways to keep your dog active during the summer without the risk of overheating. You can do something as structured as official Dock Jumping competitions (a staple at county fairs) or as simple as taking your pooch to the lakeshore with a couple of tennis balls.
Doggie Digestive Support
Have you ever tried sprinting with indigestion? Not a good time. Like you, your dog will enjoy fast-paced exercise more when she’s fed a nutritious, easy-to-digest diet. Research is just beginning to scratch the surface of how nutrition affects dogs’ gut microbiomes, but Dr. Kostiuk says canines definitely benefit from a diet that offers digestive support.
“A balance of insoluble and soluble fibers is very important to the health of a dog’s digestive tract,” says Dr. Kostiuk. “These fibers are also a source of nutrients for the gut microbiota, which help maintain a healthy gut.” Remember the Amazing Grains blend Dr. Kostiuk mentioned earlier? Those premium ingredients are a two-for-one deal: millet, quinoa, oats, and chia also contain high-quality fiber to support balanced digestion.
If you got a kick out of teaching your dog to sit and stay, you might be ready for the next level up: agility training. Agility is a competitive sport in which dogs are trained to leap over, crawl through, and weave around obstacles. It’s great exercise for you and even better exercise for your pup.
Not sure your dog is into jumping over things? Have no fear: at this point in history, we humans have created almost as many sports for dogs as we have for ourselves. From sheep-herding trials and Barn Hunt (an event that challenges dogs to sniff out fake rats in hay bales) to choreographed dance, canine sports run the gamut from the conceivably practical to the totally whimsical. Do a quick online search or consult local trainers to figure out what’s available near you.
Hydrating for Agility Sports
Good hydration is important no matter what you’re doing with your dog, but fast-paced exercise, particularly in open fields where there’s little shade, can put your dog at greater risk of overheating on hot days. Always carry a water bottle and bowl with you, and take regular breaks to make sure your dog has a chance to drink. And, of course, be sure to provide your dog with the protein, carbohydrates, and digestive support she needs to fuel up and recover before and after training.
Camping and More
Everything we do is better with our dogs around, and the healthier and happier our dogs are, the more joy we all stand to gain.
With that in mind, it’s always important to bring the right gear, even on something as straightforward as a car-camping trip. That includes bowls, a leash, a bed, and cleanup bags. And it’s always essential to make sure your dog has all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients she needs from a balanced diet so she can feel and perform her best.
Vitamins and Minerals for All Outdoor Activities
Humans get vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats from eating a diverse diet of whole-foods. Dogs are different. They get critical nutrients from organ meats and other high-quality animal ingredients. “The essential vitamins found in organs play critical roles in canine metabolism,” Dr. Kostiuk says. Next time you’re dog-food shopping, look for recipes that include organ meats as well as poultry-, fish-, or red-meat-based protein. ORIJEN® pet foods, for example, incorporate every part of the animal—from muscle meat to organs—giving your dog all the nutrients she needs.
ORIJEN® pet food is packed with premium animal ingredients to help dogs and cats thrive and is rich with the same nourishment their ancestors ate in the wild. ORIJEN Amazing Grains™ is the NEW grain-inclusive lineup brimming with quality animal protein and balanced with a hand-selected grain blend. At 38 percent protein, it boasts one of the highest percentages of protein in a grain-inclusive kibble, and approximately 90% of that protein is delivered from animal ingredients.